On and On and On Kawara
On Kawara is a conceptual artist born in the 1933. In the early 60's he began his monumental opus, the Today Series. The paintings take approx. eight hours to complete, involving up to five coats of white paint, meticulous hand painted letters and numbers and obsessive canvas construction which for a small time included a custom cardboard box and the front page of the days new paper. The painting is completed before midnight on the day of it's construction. If it is not finished before midnight it is destroyed along with it's authenticity. He has done well over 2000 paintings over the span of his life.
He sends out postcards to art galleries, friends and artists that simply say, "I am still alive" or "I got up at 8:35" or "I'm not going to commit suicide, don't worry" or "I'm not going to commit suicide, worry." These are quite valuable now.
I find something liberating about his work. James Joyce talks of the three stages artists go through, firstly making work about themselves, then work about how they relate to the world and ultimately making work about the world. On Kawara's work seems to traverse through and beyond each of these stages while never staying in one long enough for the stasis of venom to absorb. The Today Series is validated through his tireless practice of painting. One date painting could not hold the weight of time nor the wait of conceptual work. On Kwara has had a profound influence over my work as well as my life. He paints for eight hours a day. Never the same painting. Never starting tomorrows painting early to get ahead. Never cutting corners with stencils or thick white paint that would cover in one coat. He is painting. It is a meditation. For a short while I was scribbling with pens for no other reason, other than using up the ink. It's an awe inspiring thought as an artist or writer or paper plane creator to think that you will not run out of paper and you will not run out of ink. I love hearing Proust say it was just a draft. I can't begin to imagine the productive things that would happen if I were to paint for eight hours a day, even if it were for just a month. Or write for three hours a day. Three hours. It's really not that much.
The thought pattern that begins here, begins too at an On Kawara exhibit.